Hard Work – Colossians 3:18-25

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:24-25, NIV).

In these verses from Colossians the Apostle Paul counsels people who are slaves and Christians.

Slavery in the ancient Roman Empire was a common practice and there was a vast population of Roman slaves. Slaves were most often prisoners of war but could also be the families of desperate Roman citizens facing hard times. Slaves were so commonplace in Roman society that in addition to being household servants and laborers, they could hold professional positions such as teachers or public servants.

Because of the preponderance of slavery in ancient Roman society, it’s only reasonable that when Paul addresses the subject of relationships in Christian families that he would also include the relationship between slaves and their masters.

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Inexorable Goodness

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:16, NIV).

GOD IS GOOD!

It’s a mantra that Christians often proclaim.

But, what do we mean when we say God is good? By good do we mean kind? Like God is a nice guy? Or by good do we mean virtuous? That God has no character flaws? Or maybe by good we mean mighty like God is the most powerful?

The first place the goodness of God is mentioned in the Bible is, consequently, at the first of the Bible. The goodness of God is first declared in the creation story, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31, NIV).

God’s creation was not just good, it was very good! So, it only stands to reason that if God’s creation was good–very good–then God must be good because only good can create good.

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Untold Tenets: Maintaining the Status Quo – Luke 8:26-38

“When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left” (Luke 8:35-37, NIV)

This series of devotions, Untold Tenets, captures its lessons from lesser-known and sometimes overlooked scriptures that are embedded within or immediately following a well-known bible story or biblical text.

In this well-known and powerful story of demonic possession and exorcism, Jesus purposely went to a Gentile region and ministered there. As He got out of the boat after crossing the Sea of Galilee, a man possessed by many demons ran up to Jesus screaming and begging Jesus not to torture them or send them to the underworld prison of evil spirits.

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Untold Tenets: Strategic Plan – John 4:1-42

“Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world'” (John 4:39-42, NIV).

This series of devotions, Untold Tenets, captures its lessons from lesser-known and sometimes overlooked scriptures that are embedded within or immediately following a well-known bible story or biblical text.

John 4:1-42 contains the familiar story of the Samaritan woman or the woman at the well. In this story Jesus spoke the renowned “living water” declaration: “Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (vs. 14). Jesus also explained to the Samaritan woman that “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (vs. 24).

Because of the spiritual sagacity of the living-water and Spirit-and-truth-worship declarations, what may go unnoticed in this story is the strategic relevance of Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well near Sychar, Samaria, to His post-resurrection Great Commission to His disciples: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NIV).

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Untold Tenets: A Quick Look – John 3:1-21

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (John 3:14-15 NIV).

Untold Tenets is a series of devotions that captures its lessons from lesser-known and sometimes overlooked scriptures embedded within or immediately following a well-known bible story or biblical text.

John 3:1-21 records the well-known story of the conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Jewish ruling council. This story contains what are probably two of the most recognizable and often quoted verses in the New Testament: John 3:7 – “You must be born again” and John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son….”

Although the illustrious verses 3:7 and 3:16 usually draw most of the expository attention in the Nicodemus story, the more obscure verses 14 and 15 are actually the focus of this discussion. In these verses Jesus refers to an event in Numbers 21 in the Old Testament and uses it as a lead-in to His dramatic pronouncement in John 3:16.

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End Game: Part 15, Eden Reopened – Revelation 21-22

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” (Revelation 21:1-2, NIV).

The beginning of Chapter 21 reveals the conclusion of the book of Revelation. God has accomplished His purpose in saving his people and this is the fitting consummation to the story of redemption: God has brought His people home and He will dwell with them. Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:3, NIV).

We have now arrived at the cosmic event that divides time and eternity–the point in time where heaven and earth conjoin to bind the future to the present.

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End Game: Part 14, Pan-Millenialism – Revelation 20

“And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4, NIV).

The litmus test by which we classify our interpretation of Revelation is how we interpret Revelation 20:1-10., which highlights the thousand-year (millennial) reign of Christ. Our interpretation of the whole book seems to depend on when the millennium occurs in our end-time chronology.

Premillennial, amillennial or postmillennial are the eschatological labels some evangelical institutions and individuals use to define themselves or their eschatological belief system. The three terms come from the word millennium, meaning a period of a thousand years. Pre- and postmillennialism divide over the question of whether the second coming of Christ will take place before or after the thousand years mentioned repeatedly in these verses.

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Representing God – Matthew 18:3-4

Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4, NIV).

“He represented God extremely well,” the preacher said in his eulogy at a funeral I attended recently. Many other words were used to describe this honorable, Christian man–faithful, dependable, kind, caring, loving–all of which were quite true. But, to me no description of this man’s life was as appropriate and relevant as, “He represented God extremely well.”

After all, isn’t that what Christians are supposed to do–represent God? And represent Him extremely well because we know Him personally?

That’s certainly an epitaph I aspire to! Unfortunately, more often than not, my life doesn’t represent God extremely well. In fact, sometimes I don’t even represent Him well! Especially when things in my life don’t go my way.

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End Game: Part 13, Armageddon, Evil’s Last Stand – Revelation 15-19

“And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” (Revelation 16:16, ESV).

After the trumpet judgments, the focus of Revelation changed from a somewhat chronological account to descriptions of certain events and people including a woman clothed with the sun, the Antichrist, the False Prophet, and the mark of the Beast.

In Chapter 15 John sees one final vision before he is shown the rest of the tribulation judgments, represented by bowls. The first vision John sees here is that of seven angels. These carry the last judgments God will use during the tribulation. The scene is one of celebration as redeemed believers sing a song of worship to God echoing similar songs of praise offered by Israel after their deliverance from slavery in Egypt in Exodus 15.

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End Game: Part 12, Cosmic Conflict – Revelation 12-14

“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” (Revelation 12:10-11, NIV).

The main figures described in these chapters are commonly interpreted like this: The woman symbolizes Israel. The dragon symbolizes Satan. The man-child refers to Jesus. The angel Michael is head of the angelic host. The offspring of the woman symbolizes Gentiles who come to faith in the Tribulation. The beast out of the sea symbolizes the antichrist. The beast out of the earth symbolizes the false prophet who promotes the antichrist.

These chapters describe a rebellion against God that is certainly of epochal or universal proportions. This world and humanity are the battleground for this cosmic conflict (see Revelation 13:6-8). Some biblical scholars and commentators even interpret the dragon’s defeat and ejection from heaven as referring to the incarnation, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus (cf. Luke 10:18, John 12:31).

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